Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday declared the state “in recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic and she announced a panel of a dozen business leaders to advise her on plans for the state’s economic comeback.
Reynolds grew emotional as she closed her final televised news conference of the pandemic and thanked Iowans for their personal messages of support.
“I just want to say heartfelt thanks to all Iowans out there for being with me, for the notes, and the prayers that you’ve sent my way throughout this really difficult time. It really has sustained me and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate those notes and cards that I have received,” she said. Her voice wavered as she fought to hold back tears.
The milestone comes as Iowa reported 312 new cases of COVID-19 on June 17, for a total of 24,738 positive cases to date. A total of 678 Iowans with the virus have died.
Reynolds pointed to positive trends in the data. Hospitalizations hit a high point 417 people on May 6 and as of today, 176 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized, she said. There were 63 in intensive care units.
Outbreaks in long-term care facilities have also fallen, Reynolds said, with 21 facilities reporting no new cases in the past 28 days.
The percentage of positive tests has also fallen as testing capacity has increased. About 30% of tests conducted in mid-April were positive compared to 10.3% on average in mid-June.
“Although COVID-19 as a public health concern is not over and we continue to manage it every day, we’re well into the recovery phase and with the beginning of robust recovery underway, we can approach Iowa’s comeback in a number of ways,” Reynolds said.
She appointed 12 business leaders to a panel chaired by Ruan Corp. CEO Ben McLean to “chart a course for Iowa’s economic comeback.”
She said the panel’s charge would be “to assess the economic impact of COVID-19 and those whose livelihoods have been hit hard by this pandemic, to analyze and recommend recovery and growth efforts, and to identify the opportunity these changes have opened up for us to build the next generation of Iowa’s economy and workforce.”
The panel includes representatives from Vermeer Corp., MidAmerican Energy, Bush Construction, the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, Principal Financial Group, Foundation Analytical Lab, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Sukup Manufacturing, Elite Octane, Hy-Vee and John Deere.
Reynolds said government agencies and others would work with the panel. She didn’t name any representatives of workers, or of the meatpacking and livestock industries, which have had a significant COVID-19 impact.
She said, however, the panel’s work “isn’t just about moving the economic dial but also about ensuring the future prosperity of our state is widespread and reaches those workers and communities who took often feel left out, even when times are good.”
Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register.